Thursday, November 3, 2011

Finding Minutes for the Hours- Input Wanted!

Starting, or rather maintaining a Divine Office habit is not easy. Whether you say one hour of the liturgy or five, or seven, finding time is just plain hard. We don't have monastery bells calling us to prayer every couple of hours. And if we did, we'd often be unable to heed them, what with deadlines at work, crying kids, home repairs, car repairs, emergency trips to the store for whatever has been run out of, you name it. The time is there, somewhere, but one, it's hard to find, and two, once found it's hard to remember to consistently use it. Everything else clamors for our attention more forcefully than that quiet little prayerbook or prayer app. 

This is true of any kind of prayer or any kind of regular thing you want to do--read the bible, teach yourself piano, plan weekly menus, work out. 

I don't have any surefire advice to offer. Every new Remember-to-Pray gimmick works for a while, and then fades. One just has to try and try again until, after months or years of more or less succeeding, one starts to feel like something is missing if the prayer is left out. A few things that help include:

1. Your personal monastery bells: kitchen timer, cell phone alarm, a repeating  pop-up reminder on an email calendar. This assumes you will usually be in the locale of your bells.

2. Tie-in to another activity: Link your Office to some activity. For example, when the kids have left for school, sit down  and read morning prayer. Or at work: mid-morning prayer is what you do with your coffee break. Evening prayer might be done once dinner has been put in the oven, or directly after dinner while the kids clear the table. 

3. Leave the breviary (if you use one) lying around where you will see it. 

4. Start a blog about the Divine Office. You will feel pretty foolish writing about it if you aren't actually remembering to say it most of the time. 

Okay, now I want some better, more concrete ideas from the rest of you. How do you 1. find the time and 2. remind yourself? Which hours of the liturgy are easiest for you to get around to? Which are the hardest?


  1. I do Morning Prayer with breakfast if I'm in a hurry (or immediately after, which is the plan). My husband and I do Evening Prayer together after dinner. We do Night Prayer when we get in bed, before we fall asleep. This is the easiest one to remember to do, but if we stay up very late, sometimes we discuss whether it is still appropriate to do it (if it is after midnight).
    Jeanne G.

  2. It is good to remember that while the breviary is there for us to pray, the main purpose of the hours is to make yourself present to God in loving intimacy developing a discipline for prayer. At times when the day's work leeds me too little time for the formal prayer of the LOH, the intimacy with God born from previous encounters is still there,and just touching the breviary and making myself present to Him for a few moments can be my prayer. It can be at times more fruitful than the actual recitation as it stems for obedience to the discipine and spontaneious response to God's movement in my heart. Don't fret. If the intimacy is there... you will find the time and the place to do the LOH. It may not be done perfectly, but the hour is honored and made present by your obedience to prayer, breviary or not.

  3. I pray it on the morning subway -to-wok-ride, but evening I usually wait till I get home. It depends on which route I take to get home - if it has enough time. I have a sturdy cover with a handle so it can't be accidentally knocked out of my hand in a crowded train. At first I was self-conscious. Then I realized no one paid attention and I relaxed.

  4. I do struggle to fit morning and evening prayer in daily. What makes it hard for me is that as a nurse, I work part time--two 12 hour night shifts per week. Different nights, each week. So sometimes I sleep in the mornings (if I worked the night before), sometimes I sleep in the afternoons (if I am going to work that night), sometimes I sleep all day (if I work both nights) and sometimes I am awake all day. So every day is different for me, and I have a hard time settling into any kind of routine, this includes diet an exercise as well as prayer. Of course I am grateful for my job, and I realize everyone has their own personal difficulties, but this is mine.

  5. @Weaver--I have so much admiration for nurses working those long shifts. It must be very difficult to properly "feel" that it's morning after you've worked all night. I'd probably fall into bed without prayers after being up all night. My hat's off to you.
    @Franciscan Hobbit: I'm visualizing you praying in the crowded, dirty subway train, with a bunch of invisible angels hovering around and praying right with you, sanctifying that place.

  6. I find that things tend to go in seasons. There will be a season when the stars line up right and I'm able to wake up before the kids most mornings. Right now for the life of me I can't manage to get up before them. So sometimes morning prayer is a no-brainer and sometimes it's almost impossible. Sometimes I can say it with a child or two snuggled up next to me before I get out of bed. Sometimes they just demand to be fed and won't cuddle.

    Sometimes afternoon naps are a good time for me to pray. Sometimes after the kids are in bed. For me the hard part is recognizing when to let go of trying to make it work when circumstances have changed.

    Right now nothing seems to be working very well. Waking up early just isn't happening on a regular basis. I've switched to a quick morning offering and trying to same at least some part of morning prayer after breakfast. For a while I was able to say evening prayer when I nurse the baby down for the night but now that it's getting darker earlier and he's getting older and more grabby I can't read the office on my cell phone because the light distracts him and keeps him from falling to sleep. Instead, I try to use that time for being quiet in the presence of God but most often my mind drifts or I start to fall asleep. And the big girls are demanding that I use the little boys' naptime for reading and art projects and cuddly one-on-one time.


    I didn't think there's anything inappropriate about saying Night Prayer after midnight. I thought as long as you said it before going to sleep (and before Morning Prayer of the next day) you were good. Daria, what says the General Instruction on that one?

  7. Melanie, Thanks for reminding me to check that "After midnight" thing. I'd meant to and then forgot. #84. of the General Instruction says "Night Prayer is the last prayer of the day, said before retiring at night, even after midnight."
    So yes, Knowledgehungry and spouse are fine saying Compline after midnight.

    And Melanie, I was very spotty with the Office during the seasons of babies+demanding preschoolers. You might find that you've more or less memorized one of the Night Prayer sequences, perhaps Sunday I or Wednesday, which are short. If so, just use that one over and over. And maybe just do the Benedictus and the Magnificat in place of Morning and Evening Prayer while you're in a baby-intensive season. One nursing mom I know (twins in fact) has been listening to the podcasts of the hours on Not during night feedings, of course.

  8. The LOH orders our day and reminds us to make God present sanctifying each moment. Kudos for all of you trying so hard to make it possible at least in mornings and evenings. Melanie B: I remember praying with a baby in my arms... chanting it made my daughter stop squirming and put her at ease... and often she would quiet down to listen to my voice, but as you said, it is a struggle. Just know that from an early time you're teaching a valuable lesson. Prayer is important and it is important to you. Now my daughter is 11 and when she see the breviary in my hand she knows I'm praying and is time to leave mommy be. As a little reward, she prays her simple prayers morning and evening without me ever having to tell her.. she just does as part of the daily routine seen as my marking the hours.

    The mechanic of the LOH can be at times disheartening... but know that God in His wisdom knows our desire. He is there and you all are sensitive to His movement in your heart. So keep up the struggle. It is part of your prayer.

  9. Evening's the worst for me! My 2 kids still at home are 9 and 15, and someone's always got to be somewhere. If I don't take care of Evening Prayer before 3:30 when the school bus rolls up, all bets are off and it ends up becoming "Evening prayer just before bed." But 3:30 seems way too early.
    I'm an early bird by nature, so morning prayer is easier. No distractions!